Rodrigo Duterte needs a PR makeover to win the presidency

It looks like Davao Mayor and Presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte is going to be another public relations nightmare similar to President Benigno Simeon Aquino and another Presidential aspirant Mar Roxas. Just like BS Aquino and Roxas, Duterte is acting like a loose cannon – speaking and acting like he does not care about what people think.

Filipino voters did not need to see the spectacle of Duterte's womanizing ways.

Filipino voters did not need to see the spectacle of Duterte’s womanizing ways.

If Duterte ever wins the Presidency, his communication team might spend a lot of time during his six-year term trying to “clarify” his statements that have been “misconstrued” by the public. That would be a waste, indeed since Duterte is considered by many to be more competent and has proven to have accomplished more as a public servant in his own province.

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To be sure, a Duterte Presidency will be a test of how good or bad Filipinos are at communicating with each other. This early we can already see that there will be a lot of miscommunication problems throughout his Presidential term, if he does win the election in 2016. We can partly blame this to the fact that Duterte normally speaks using a different dialect and has a different accent to Filipinos living outside Mindanao region when he speaks the Filipino language. Because of that, Filipinos from other regions are not used to his mannerism and the way he speaks.

To a lot of people, he comes across as too crass especially when he brags about having two young girlfriends and his sex life. His jokes fall flat with some people because it comes out like he is being rude particularly when he peppers his statements with swear words. This was evident when he jokingly made a statement about wanting to call Pope Francis after he found out his visit was going to cause traffic chaos in the Philippines. His statement wouldn’t have attracted condemnation had he not inserted the swear word “putang ina” before the Pope’s name.

In his defense, his supporters are saying he was just misconstrued because he didn’t mean to swear at the Pope and in fact, Duterte apologized for it. His supporters are even calling those who were offended as too sensitive. There lies the problem. It seems Duterte and his supporters want the voters to accept him for who he is — warts and all — because they can guarantee that he will turn the entire Philippine archipelago into a progressive nation the way he did with Davao. But can he really do it? Davao is smaller in relation to the entire archipelago a president needs to govern and he needs the cooperation of different local government units and Congress to accomplish his goals.

But before that, the first thing Duterte needs to do is to win the election. Unfortunately, Duterte is not going to win the election if he doesn’t know how to please the voters. He may have loyal supporters who don’t care how rude he is or how many people he has allegedly killed in the name of “peace” and “order”, but there are plenty more who don’t care for his unusual style.

His supporters think that his “honesty” is a breath of fresh air compared to a lot of public servants who try to look like saints but live in “sin” behind closed doors. In other words, they think Duterte is not a hypocrite. They are okay with his womanizing and unconventional lifestyle. That is a good point. I don’t like men who act so holy in public while secretly having mistresses left and right myself.

While honesty is great, crassness is not, especially when one is running for the Presidency. I personally did not want to see Duterte parading his girlfriends, having them sit on his lap, and discussing his sex life on national television. It is apparent that a lot of people agree with me on this. I do not care how many girlfriends he has as long as he keeps all that to himself. I did not need to know it. I care more about his policies than his personal life.

When I saw Duterte discussing his girlfriends and sex life in front of the press, I saw a man who was acting like a misogynist who treated women like sex objects. I just hope those women know what they are doing because they are wasting their youth on an old man who won’t be able to give them a good future.

His supporters say his critics should stop focusing on his personal life. Well, his critics wouldn’t be discussing his personal life had he not brought it up in the first place. Maybe it is a Filipino thing to brag about their conquests because you don’t hear of other world leaders doing the same. The late former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew refused to discuss his personal life in front of the public eye. He even rebuffed a question from a Filipino student during a conference who asked how much influence his wife had on his political career.

If Duterte wants to win more votes, he should consider using a different approach. I am not totally against him. I’ve been to Davao and I know what some of his supporters are talking about. But he needs to work on his diplomatic skills to win votes. The Presidency is a different ball game. He will be talking to a lot more people including people from the international community who are accustomed to diplomacy.

Duterte’s cursing and crassness is dividing instead of uniting the Filipino people’s sentiments. All these arguments about him cursing the Pope were a waste of time. The Pope didn’t even have anything to do with the roadblocks that were imposed by BS Aquino government during his visit. It’s not like he requested it.

Duterte’s cursing distracts people from the point he is trying to make and it is arrogant of him and his rabid supporters to insist that people shouldn’t focus on his cursing. A rational person would at least try to eliminate the cause of miscommunication, which in this instance is his cursing, so he can get on with discussing the important issues.

One way to prevent leaders from acting like gods is to call their attention every time they commit something foul. I am afraid that if people turn a blind eye to Duterte’s shenanigans now, he will get worse once he is in Malacanang. His supporters can clamor for him to act a bit more diplomatic this early in exchange for their votes. The problem is, Duterte is making it look like he doesn’t really want the job and is just being compelled to apply for it. So his attitude is “take me, or leave me”. That will be a problem in the long run. We all know what happened after the reluctant son of heroes was forced to run for the Presidency. He acted like he was doing everyone a favor once he was in office.

I could take Duterte more seriously once he starts cursing BS Aquino and his incompetent cabinet members for the misery they caused to millions of Filipinos during his term.

[Photo courtesy The Star Online.]

36 Replies to “Rodrigo Duterte needs a PR makeover to win the presidency”

  1. My first question here is: if Duterte does get elected President, could he make BS Aquino accountable for his actions during his 2010-2016 term? Is he, as he brags, able to put Aquino in jail as quickly as he brags about his Death Squads getting things done?

    1. @MidwayHaven

      Even now, Duterte seems afraid to criticise Noynoy for his failures. So I guess it might not be part of his plan to run after his predecessor if elected.

  2. What can you expect from a Foul Mouthed Murdering Lunatic, who try to show , he is a Stud. Maybe, behind the scene, there are bottles and bottles of “Viagra”.

    We have an insane mentally retarded President. Soon, if Duterte, would be elected as President. We would have a Foul Mouth Lunatic.

    The Filipinos voters deserve better choices, than these misfits. Anyway, one of these Clowns will be elected…so fasten your seat belt… we could be on to another “bumpy ride…

  3. “Foul Mouthed…” I think his being popular is another validation of the theory that Filipinos prefer leaders that best reflects themselves rather than truly lead them. Am I saying that majority of Filipino voters are foul mouthed? Hmmm… I think it’s either that or the Filipino’s love for rugged-type heroes. I remember one former Philippine president winning using that image.

    While the element of not being a hypocrite is a good thing, a voter like me is much more interested in evaluating his management skills. Like author Ilda, I’m not really interested in Duterte’s personal escapades. I appreciate that he seemed honest about it but I think I have read and heard enough. It’s time to know his platforms and how he will back up his ‘promises.’

    ‘Rodrigo Duterte needs to have PR makeover…” – Yes. I agree. Why? He is running for president and, though they will not be voting, foreign leaders and investors are going to be watching him. Besides, since it is going to be a new, not to mention higher, position, I think it wouldn’t hurt reinventing himself. He can’t ride that Davao City “disciplinarian” forever, right? How will other countries take or think of the Philippines if he keeps his present image?

    At the end of the day, a voter like me just wants to be satisfied with the question, “what else can you offer/give?” The point is, fine, he may be good in suppressing crimes in his city but how will he do that on a national scale and how will he deal with other problems that exists with it?

    A little repackaging can give us some hints as to what he is made of.

  4. Perhaps Duterte is a product of his environment. A rural area with backward traditions and culture that does not promote thinking and encourages whimsical reaction. With mentalities molded by a harsh environment close to caveman levels, that life is considered cheap. Basically, this is an effect of the lack of development in the far-off provinces.

    A PR makeover might be needed for this election, but in the end, a change in the way all Filipinos live and act is what is needed for the whole country in the long term.

      1. “Como natural, no puede quetar”…whatever your nature, it cannot be removed. No PR effort can remake him.

        Even if you put clothes of diamonds on a monkey. It will still be a monkey.

        However, there is an Arabic saying:” A monkey is a gazelle, in the eyes of its mother”…

        This is how those people in Davao City views Duterte. He is a monkey, but in their eyes: he is a gazelle.

        1. Such sophistication Mr Flaneur! I wonder why Perez Hilton ended up here.

          But may I remind this esteemed gentleman, this is not a beauty contest for god’s sake.

          If by any chance it would be, here’s what will happen…

          Contestant #1: Mar Roxas
          “I was born a gazelle and always will be. I don’t need no diamonds to prove that.”

          Contestant #2:Grace Poe
          “I was born a monkey but nurtured by gazelles. I have diamond necklaces to prove that. I am now and always will be a gazelle.”

          Contestant #3: Digong Duterte
          “I am indeed a monkey but I am confidently beautiful with a heart, thank you!”

    1. ChinoF says: With mentalities molded by a harsh environment close to caveman levels, that life is considered cheap. Basically, this is an effect of the lack of development in the far-off provinces.

      *cough* *cough*
      Listen to your words. You, my friend, are a product of your environment as well. Good luck!

  5. People already elected noted philanderer Erap so I doubt Duterte bragging about his sex life will hurt him.

    Can’t say about his insulting the Pope and his general braggadocio however.

      1. The way he said it reminds me of a certain US presidential candidate with a toupee, who once said that he would date his daughter if he weren’t his daughter.

  6. “ChinoF says:
    December 4, 2015 at 10:08 am
    Perhaps Duterte is a product of his environment. (Davao) A rural area with backward traditions and culture that does not promote thinking and encourages whimsical reaction.”

    Have you been to Davao? Why do all you grptard writers view all of yourselves as high intellectual superior people compare to us that are not from Manila?

    But no matter… Keep it up.keep showing us your grptard colours bro!

  7. Hi ilda…i’m an avid reader of grp, and particularly you since most of the times you seem to write quite eloquently what is on my mind. As many who read the comments in past articles by now, i am a dutertard as well, but i pray you will not be dismissive of this.

    I agree the guy is a wee bit of a hard sell and if his campaign budget would permit, shd hire a pr firm altho i really appreciate his transparency. Yes that pope faux pas was a blunder (boy, lacierda was outraged) and he apologized for it. I wonder if mar ever owned up to the “bahala na kayo sa buhay nyo” bit at tacloban also caught on cam (*crickets* lacierda). So forgive me if i am a bit more forgiving of duterte’s crassness. Others would spit on our face with open mouth smiles, and maybe it’s just me but that is what i find unacceptable.

    I heard manny pinol said he asked the mayor to tone it down so i guess they are aware of this. If its of any consolation to you, last sunday, his first p*tang ina was directed at this gov’t and that made us clap. Forgive us if that enabled him to further cuss.

    I was surprised though he was a congressman before, because he spoke the way he did during deliberations in congress, i’m sure he’d be all over the papers. I guess, in the proper forum and when speaking in english, he can better express himself with more civility (i could be wrong though….hehe).

    Like i mentioned with my past comments, my decision to support him stemmed from the personal experiences of people i know who have directly benefitted from his style of leadership. I’d rather have this than a candidate who is a product of a pr firm (alam nyo na yan) and necropolitics (alam nyo na din sila).

    And besides, at least this guy had enough balls to do the unthinkable: he actually gave credit to gma for elevating the drug problem to a national issue and said that he will use this program. At least no credit-grabbing, no more sisi, just real talk.

    One big consolation of having duterte in the race is that at least, the cheating in mindanao would be mititgated. If another candidate wins in that region by a big margin, the result would be highly suspicious. Hm, maybe that’s why there are those hellbent on derailing his candidacy. Alam na this.

    1. I may have been too young to witness his time in Congress so I cannot confirm nor deny if he behaved the same way he does now.

      Look, if it weren’t for his cursing, the blatant display of sordid lifestyle and especially the bragging about extra-judicial killings, he probably wouldn’t get too much criticisms. What I don’t understand is why he wants to attract too much controversy. It’s like he doesn’t want to win. But if people turn a blind eye to his shenanigans now, they will regret giving him impunity later on when he is in power.

      He may win despite his unconventional style but that says a lot about Filipinos, unfortunately.

  8. Benign0’s recent article coined the use of Antifragile on this guy – so good PR / bad PR, either way his popularity keeps rising, moving from strength to strength.

    This guy is a totally different political specimen – we are just beginning to discover what kind of simulation model is actually applicable to him.

    He reminds me of Putin – a rogue unpredictable cunning contrast to all the other “as-expected behaving” NATO leaders.

    These types of leader are almost bullet-proof, impervious to attacks. Like confident lions who simply don’t give a damn what other animals think, and saying “who cares if I stink, I’m just gonna eat you alive anyways”.

    Duterte’s rough edges are exactly why he’s gaining so much popularity among voters/media. Refining and taming him to behave and act like all the rest will only keep him from being the nail that stands out, which does him no good if he just fades into obscurity.

    As much as I agree that a statesman should act and behave discreetly and model dignity, I don’t think Duterte is the least bothered if he doesn’t get the vote of “refined intellectuals” like many here in GRP, which may be just 1% of the voting population anyways.

    In the meantime, it seems he is enjoying all the attention now – basking in free media coverage. He rightly said he has no money to run, yet I don’t think he needs any to wage a national campaign after all when all of media and even GRP are swarming all over him, like flies feasting on an organic landmine.

    We will have to re-write the books and rules of the game after this guy wins his way into the halls of Malacanang: which should include a new chapter on “How to win a national election without any money in the Philippines”.

    1. @Zaxx

      Seems Duterte is now working on his PR. He recently promised to use less swear words especially in front of the media and he met Church members in Davao to apologise for swearing at the Pope.

      This is proof that the people can force their public servants to behave by criticising them.

      1. @Ilda,
        wow an apologizing politician – that’s new. I got so accustomed to PNoy and his cohorts that I’ve already resigned myself to the fact that “sorry” is not in a PH politician’s vocabulary.

        well I guess DU30 is a totally different political animal. The guy actually more manners than PNoy then. Maybe he’ll send you a “thank you” note for your article as well.

  9. I’m not trying to defend or speak for Duterte or anybody. Share ko lang my observation or insights, you may agree or disagree po.

    “There is no such thing as bad publicity” – Phineas T. Barnum

    “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about” – Oscar Wilde

    The idea that no publicity can do harm is a very useful gimmick to get free media exposure.

    Maybe DUTERTE took a gamble for free publicity?

    Maybe DUTERTE really does not want to win or be President and some people is merely forcing him to run?

    Maybe DUTERTE is really honest and not afraid to show his real personality?

    Maybe it’s one of DUTERTE’s strategy? To reach people, we need to use their language.

    NO such thing as CUSS Free Philippines/World, even our beloved Pope Francis also mistakenly uttered the word ‘f***’ in Italian before quickly correcting himself.

    “Well, I don’t speak profanity, I only allow it in the music I listen to, and it doesn’t affect me.”

  10. Philippine Politics (Showbiz Government) is actually full of Showbiz personalities, popular celebrities and name recall is key to being elected. So most of our Politician use various gimmick (good or bad) just to gain publicity and free media exposure:

    By somewhat projecting notoriety, seeking a bad boy image, and keeping a scandalous reputation.

    2. GRACE POE
    Disqualification case against POE for lacking 10yr residency, not being natural born Filipino, U.S Citizenship issue, Sympathy for FPJ and foundling.

    3. MIRIAM
    As Stage-4 cancer survivor.

    4. MAR – EPAL pictures here and there.

    When Is Bad Publicity Good?

    Negative publicity can increase sales (vote) when a product (candidate) is relatively unknown simply because it stimulates product (candidate) awareness.

    “Either they’re trying to figure out how to get the public to think their product is a good one, or they’re just trying to get people to know about their product. In some markets, where there are lots of competing products, they’re more preoccupied with the latter. In that case, any publicity, positive or negative, turns out to be valuable.”

    (ex. Duterte, Mar, Mo Twister, Tio Ralph,)

    Philippines is predominantly a Catholic country, so in a sense vulgarity or uttering a taboo word is a BIG NO. But I would still choose to be, or be associated to, hang with, befriend, listen/talk to, believe, follow, and vote for:

    1. The world foremost expert on profanity & swearing, rather than someone who is full of rhetoric and pretend (facade only) to be good, a saintly, and godly or Filipino term “Santong Kabayo, Banal na Aso”.

    2. Feared/Respected but not close or well like by peers/people rather than be abuse one’s kindness, used by everyone or always influence one’s decisions.

    3. Win Golden Foul Mouth award rather than forever mute or suppressed my real emotions (anger/despair/protest/frustrations). It’s our expression of contempt for any abusive authority or even the most benign.

    Profanity, swearing and cussing, if used by common tao (powerless) is normal and acceptable. But when powerful figures like politicians (e.g. Presidential candidates) use obscenity in public, people begin to think that power itself has become angry desperate.

    1. Do you really think that there is no rhetorics in him? Oh my god! That is the reason you don’t wanna mess with a Duterte fan.

  12. “I visited and talked with Archbishop Romulo Valles and Bishop George Rimando, together with Monsignor Paul Cuison and my Executive Assistant Bong Go. I was admonished and lectured on Christian Values and in return, I told them that I would lessen my use of cuss words. I am even regulating myself and will donate P1,000 to Caritas Davao everytime I would swear. I am also planning to visit the Vatican soon. It was a good meeting and I would like to thank my friends in the Church for their time.”


    The thing with bad PR is it always grabs attention. You may lose some supporters but depending on how you do damage control, you might get them back if not gain more of them.

    To whoever is handling Duterte’s PR: He is doing an excellent job.

  13. Roddy just needs to keep doing what he is doing and do as all the other people running for President have done in the last 20 years. and that is basically promise the idiotic Filipino massa that he will change things, maybe even promise a new ‘straight and narrow ‘ path (just with different words.

    and once he is elected give himself a brain enema and forget everything he said during the campaign, like all the rest of his predecessors, and everything will go on as usual.

  14. okay..we’ve attacked everybody who is running for president..ALTERNATIVES, please…where are the likes of gibo when you need them…

    1. The alternatives aren’t running.

      I think it was Arthur C. Clarke who once said that in a democracy, the person who least seeks the highest position is most deserving of it.

  15. There’s a fine line between being truthful and being a complete jerk. I respond and with that I turn my back to the fire. I mutter an obligatory ‘goodnight’ before falling into sleep.

  16. let me paste my comment here from Kate’s article. nagkamali ako ng comment sa kabila. dito pala dapat. Digong needs a PR makeover. i agree.

    if i will be his PR adviser i’ll have him talk base on the crowd:

    1. to our seamen and taxi drivers, blue collar workers:

    go to: 3:26 mark

    2. joke about women. instead of saying short-time” this is better:

    3. middle class crowd:

    4. general crowd: mixed of commoners, elitist (manileno/manilena or whoever) and CEO, businessmen.

    I will give him an opening script something like this:

    good morning everybody, i thank you all for attending this gathering, as you all know I have now filed my candidacy for the highest office in the land. The Presidency.

    then followed by: “well, since this is not yet the campaign period let me just read my speech last time at Asia CEO Forum when i was invited as guest speaker. this may serve as the answer why i’m running for the office. then start:

    after the speech Q&A naman:

    His image would have been different to what we all see in the news today.

  17. First Duterte doesn’t need the presidency. He longed for retirement. The OFW and other Filipinos forced him to run.

    Now, these group of people seems to be enough for him to propel to presidency with or without PR.

    He has millions of active campaigners…unlike those who only have passive campaigners.

    He is an exceptional administrator. You can never deal with the four horsemen of the apocalypse if your skill is just a plain local executive.

  18. As Chomsky said, people vote for image, thus elections are run by the same guys who sell toothpaste.

    Now, since when did the ‘erudite’ GRP started selling this junk???

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